Kia and Hyundai’s IoT Potential Gearbox Opens Expert Driving to All

Maximus’s inspiration to his Roman troops in Gladiator, “Imagine where you will be and it will be so”, seems pertinent to Hyundai Group’s proposed internet connected gearbox and my musing on the possible future of automatic transmissions.

In the road test of the Honda Africa Twin’s intelligent automatic transmission, I wondered how soon an IoT capable gearbox could elevate the abilities of a weekend off-road novice biker to expert levels. Now that potential is nearly upon us with the automaker’s fully connected auto transmission.

Engineers from both of its main brands, Kia and Hyundai, have developed what is claimed to be the world’s first predictive information and communication technology (ICT) connected shift system, enabling the vehicle to automatically change to the appropriate gear after identifying the road and traffic conditions ahead. The brands plan to apply the technology on future vehicles.

While the technologies used depend on drivers’ preferences, such as Smart Drive Mode, available on most current Kia and Hyundai models, the new system is the first to automatically shift the gear according to road and traffic conditions. It uses intelligent software in the transmission control unit (TCU) that collects and interprets real-time input from underlying technologies, including 3D navigation equipped with a map of the road as well as cameras and radar for smart cruise control.

The 3D navigation input includes elevation, gradient, curvature and a variety of road events as well as current traffic conditions. Radar detects the speed and distance between the vehicle and others and a forward-looking camera provides lane information.

Using all of these inputs, the TCU predicts the best gear ratio for real-time driving situations through an artificial intelligence algorithm and shifts the gears accordingly. For example, when a relatively long slow down is expected and radar detects no speed irregularities with the car ahead, the transmission clutch temporarily switches to neutral mode to improve fuel efficiency.

When the system was tested a vehicle on a heavily curved road, the automakers claim the frequency of shifts in cornering was reduced by approximately 43% compared to vehicles without the system. They say it also reduced the frequency of brake operation by approximately 11%, reducing driving fatigue and brake wear.

When rapid acceleration was required to enter a highway, the driving mode automatically switched to Sport Mode at the merging ramp, making it easier to join the traffic flow. After merging with traffic, the vehicle automatically returned to its original driving mode, enabling safe and efficient driving.

Additionally, the engine brakes were automatically applied upon release of the accelerator pedal by determining speed bumps, downhill slopes and location of the speed limit change on the road. The changes in distance from the front car were detected by the front radar to adjust appropriate transmission gear automatically, which improved driving quality.

Naturally, the automakers see the system as another stepping stone towards full autonomous driving as they plan to develop the system to communicate with traffic signals based on LTE or 5G communication and identify drivers’ tendencies, resulting in further refinement of gear-shift control. Byeong Wook Jeon, head of intelligent drivetrain control research lab for the group, said: “Vehicles are evolving beyond simple mobility devices into smart mobility solutions. Even a traditional area of the automobile, such as the powertrain, is becoming a high-tech technology optimized for smart mobility through efforts to integrate ICT and artificial intelligence technologies.”

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in London. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *